Going for a squirm, snacking on poo, living the naked mole rat life.
Oh, naked mole rats, what fresh new weirdness do you have for us today? It wasn’t enough that you look like wee spring rolls with teeth, or that you are nearly blind and navigate your ramifying, oxygen-poor burrows by scent. No, you are also apparently immune to cancer, have terrible, gimpy sperm, and, we learn today, feel no pain from acid burns because your nervous system is defective.
We’d heard things like this before, naked mole rats.
The next time you sneeze at cat dander or suffer through a yearly dose of hay fever, you might want to thank your immune system: scientists have discovered that people with allergies are less likely to contract brain tumors.
Several teams had previously explored the link between allergies and glioma, says UIC epidemiologist Bridget McCarthy, who led the study. Her team set out to confirm these results, cobbling together a wide list of variables. The researchers quizzed about 1,000 hospital patients with or without cancer about their allergy histories. Of the 344 patients with high-grade glioma, about 35 percent reported having been diagnosed with one or more allergies in their lifetimes, compared with about 46 percent of the 612 cancer-free respondents. About 10 percent of high-grade tumor patients had three or more allergy diagnoses, as opposed to 22 percent of the controls. “The more allergies you have, the more protected you were,” says McCarthy, an oncologist at UIC.
Researchers don’t know for sure why this is the case, and this study only demonstrated a link between allergies and reduced glioma risk–it didn’t prove that the one causes the other. But the researchers say it’s quite plausible that people are protected by their allergies. Science News quotes Baylor Medical College oncologist Michael Scheurer:
“They have an overactive immune system, and maybe that’s been protecting them from the development of tumors,” he says.
Even more intriguing, the scientists found that those who took antihistamines to combat their allergies also had a higher chance of getting glioma. But you shouldn’t be worried if you take antihistamines or don’t have spring-time sneezes: brain tumors are rare and the study’s sample size was small. The findings do, however, back up past research findings that link overactive immune systems with decreased likelihoods of childhood leukemia, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. So come spring-time, you better count your lucky sneezes.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons / CDC Public Health Image
Doctors recently found a surprising growth in Ron Sveden’s lung: a pea plant.
Sveden, a 75-year-old man from Massachusetts reportedly suffered from emphysema for months. He worried when he met with New York City pulmonologist Len Horovitz that he might have lung cancer. Instead, X-rays revealed a pea plant, the BBC reports, which Sveden estimates grew to around half an inch.
Dr. Horovitz says that the lung’s warmth and moisture made the perfect pea habitat and suspects a pea seed went down the wrong way. He told AOL Health:
“That can definitely happen. This did not surprise me…. You can inhale a seed of a plant or sprouting plant and it can cause bronchial obstruction. I’ve pulled food out of people’s lungs before.”
Still, given the popularity of this story, we’re guessing lung gardening is pretty rare. As Sveden says in the ABC News video above, he’s not sure how big a lung-born pea plant can grow:
“Whether this would have gone full-term and I’d be working for the Jolly Green Giant, I don’t know.”
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Update, 9pm, July 29: Thanks to a tip from a commenter, we learned there was a crucial factual error in this post, so the text and headline have been altered to fix the problem.
In the West, breast cancer occurs 10 percent more often in the left breast than in the right, and skin cancer also pops up more on the left side. Oddly enough, this disparity is nonexistent in Japan. Why the discrepancies between left/right and West/East? Swedish scientists think they have the answer to the riddle—and it’s kind of weird.
The researchers lay out their case in a recent study in Pathophysiology, and the title (“Sleep on the right side—Get cancer on the left?”) gives a hint of where it’s going: The discrepancy is due to a difference in the types of beds commonly used in Japan and the West, and how radio and television waves interact with this furniture.
The Web site for POM pomegranate juice makes some pretty extreme claims, strongly implying that the juice can prevent or help treat diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and even erectile dysfunction. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has said such claims are misleading and are not allowed on food products, according to a report in The New York Times. If POM wants to make such claims, the FDA stated, it will have to be regulated as a drug.
In a crackdown on companies with misleading labels, the FDA shot off warning letters asking 17 companies to clean up their act.
I scream, you scream, we all scream… for the medicine given to recovering cancer patients.
The Scientist reports that LactoPharma, (a “collaborative research venture between the University of Aukland, the New Zealand government, and the country’s largest dairy company, Fonterra Ltd.”) has created a therapeutic, strawberry-flavored ice cream called ReCharge.
ReCharge ice cream has gone through a string of taste-tests to ensure that the product satisfies the palette. However, one ingredient is a mandatory keeper: Lactoferrin, a protein found in milk that possesses the power to impede tumor growth and improve intestinal immune response. Because side effects of chemotherapy include the destruction of neutrophils (while blood cells) and intestinal cells, which often leads to infection and digestive problems, University of Auckland biologist Geoff Krissansen decided to test bovine lactoferrin on chemotherapy patients to see whether it could counter these side effects.
For the last five years, Oscar the cat has been sniffing out death. Literally.
The cat lives at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation in Providence, Rhode Island, a facility that cares for people with severe dementia.
Back in 2007, geriatrician and Brown University professor David Dosa wrote a perspective in The New England Journal of Medicine claiming that Oscar is the cuddlier, feline equivalent of the Grim Reaper. According to Dosa, his mere presence at the bedside of severely ill patients is viewed by doctors and nurses alike as an almost absolute indicator of impending death.
Now Oscar is back in the news, as Dosa has just published a book expanding on the story.
The Telegraph reports:
Belle de Jour, the best-selling author who penned books about her life as a call girl, revealed her true identity over the weekend. Her name is Brooke Magnanti.
Dr. Brooke Magnanti to be exact. It turns out she’s a cancer researcher who began turning tricks while in grad school.
Via the London Times:
Magnanti is a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol. Six years ago, in the final stages of her PhD thesis, she ran out of money and turned to prostitution through a London escort agency, charging £300 an hour. Already an experienced science blogger, she began writing about her experiences in a web diary that was adapted into books and a television drama starring Billie Piper.
It’s not like she didn’t try to find honest work. She told the Times that at one point during her double life she had a job as a computer programmer, “but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable.”
So what do you think readers? Is this a commentary on how poorly grad students, and scientists in general, are compensated?
More reactions over at The Great Beyond.
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Image: flickr / keepwaddling1
More than a year after his first appearance, The Today Show revisited Paul Karason, who suffered an extremely rare side effect when he took colloidal silver to treat a skin condition: His skin turned blue. Not a light shade of azure or a sky blue—we’re talking full-on Smurf. While the 58-year-old isn’t exactly the picture of health—he was recently treated for a blocked artery and prostate cancer—a recent physical indicated that his heart, lungs, kidney and liver were all healthy. Watch the full interview here:
A Singaporean man trying to enter the U.S. was detained by TSA officials for four hours as a possible security threat, all because he had no fingerprints. Turns out he wasn’t a potential terrorist—he just had cancer. Experts point to capecitabine, a drug he was taking to prevent a recurrence of his head and neck cancer, as the reason for the fingerprint loss.
One of the side effects of capecitabine, which is a common treatment for breast, head and neck, and stomach cancers, is a disorder known as hand-foot syndrome. The disease causes the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet to swell, peel, and bleed.